It’s been 25 days since our family has eaten out at a restaurant. We decided to take a challenge: no restaurant meals for the month of September. That’s a significant goal for us. On average, we were eating out (or ordering pizza) two, maybe three times each week.
This bright idea came after a trip downtown to eat lunch with my husband during summer vacation. We ate somewhere we’d eaten before, which usually makes me relax a little about our younger son’s nut allergy. Internally I think, “He was fine the last time we we ate here. He should be fine this time.” By fine, I mean their kitchen prepares food that is safe for him to eat – no nuts in his meal, nut products in the oil or foods that have touched nuts on shared plates, etc.
But as he sat in the booth across from me, I noticed my younger son stopped eating after a while. He looked as if he was going to curl up in the booth.
“You feel okay?” I asked.
“No. My stomach hurts.”
“How’s your mouth?” I asked, looking at my husband.
“Not so good,” our son replied. He’s four years old, so his ability to assess a reaction on his own is still minimal.
I pulled out his EpiPen, handed it to my husband and we all stopped eating. For those who don’t have a child with allergies, this might seem over-the-top. He complains of a stomach ache and a feeling in his mouth and I immediately think he’s having an allergic reaction?
If it were my older son, I wouldn’t be as concerned by the comments that his stomach aches or that his mouth feels funny. My older son doesn’t have a life-threatening allergy to nuts. But my younger son does and when we he makes a comment like that after he eats food that *could* have contained nuts (even though I’d confirmed it didn’t with the wait staff) we need to be alert.
He went to the bathroom with my husband and older son. And, he promptly vomited. Thankfully he began to feel better. Was this rejection from his stomach a “mild” reaction to nuts we couldn’t see? Was it just a tummy ache? Was it because he’d had some sweet lemonade? We had no way of knowing. We paid for our bill ($50), left our plates full of food and went to a nearby grocery store to buy him a banana and some cheese.
After this experience, I wanted to take a break from the underlying stress at restaurants, the constant worry if the food is truly nut-free. And, part of me wanted to see if we could save the $440 or so we spend at restaurants each month.
Here we are at day 25 of restaurant-free eating and it’s been amazing. I’m proud that we’ve made it and I’m proud of the benefits I’ve seen as a result.
I’ll share more about why later in the week.